February 8, 2015
When a Miami PD officer approaches Warren Redlich at a DUI checkpoint outside the AmericanAirlines Arena, he calmly presses a sheet of paper and his license to the glass. The cop looks confused, calling over a colleague. They study the paper for a moment, pause, and then give Redlich the thumbs-up to keep driving.
The clip is one in a series by the Palm Beach attorney, who has gained fame because another video featuring his technique has gone viral this month with more than 2 million views. He says his work is meant to highlight a legally questionable police tactic that snags innocent drivers — but cops, anti-DUI activists, and fellow attorneys aren’t so enthusiastic.
“Checkpoints are un-American,” Redlich says. “They’re fundamentally wrong, and they’re not what our country is about. I have family members who don’t drink, who are very much against DUIs, and they don’t like checkpoints either.”
But Redlich’s techniques have inflamed police — with sheriffs in Pinellas and Lee counties promising to arrest anyone who tries it — and left defense attorneys skeptical.
“I would never antagonize a man with a gun,” says Jonathan Blecher, a DUI defense attorney in Miami.
Lawyer’s viral trick gets him through Miami checkpoint
In his Miami video — which Redlich shot last July with Photography Is Not a Crime creator Carlos Miller — the attorney and libertarian activist uses what he calls his “Fair DUI” flier. The idea, he says, is simple: By presenting it with a license and insurance, a driver can comply with police without forgoing his or her Fifth Amendment rights:
“The reason why I have the card is because the Supreme Court made a statement where a guy clammed up and they said he didn’t ‘definitively assert’ his right to remain silent,” he says.
Redlich has tried the card dozens of times, he says, and has had wide success in getting waved through checkpoints. One of those trial runs came in Levy County, where an activist named Jeff Gray added a slight twist: putting all of his documents in a baggie and feeding them through the window:
DUI Checkpoint, Civil Rights Audit
After that video was picked up by the Blaze early last month, it has exploded on the web, with 2.2 million page views and counting. Redlich’s homepage has been inundated with interest in the technique.
“On a good month, we might get 10,000 hits,” he says. “In the first week of January, it was 500,000.”
Redlich says his activism came through experience. Though he’s a devoted libertarian — who even ran for governor in New York before moving to South Florida — he says his biggest concern with DUI checkpoints is their propensity to cause false arrests.
“The average person thinks that sober people don’t get arrested in DUI checkpoints, but it happens a lot,” he says. “I think it’s as high as 30 to 40 percent of DUI arrests in those cases.”
But what about the legal nitty-gritty of Redlich’s plan? Legal experts say police have been granted wide legal leeway in DUI stops, assuming they follow a number of rules set by the courts, including publicizing the location ahead of time, randomly selecting cars, and limiting the size of the checkpoint.
“Numerous appellate cases have held that a motorist doesn’t have a right to refuse to comply with an officer’s basic requests at a traffic stop or at a checkpoint,” Orlando defense lawyer Richard Hornsby recently said.
Neither Miami PD’s nor the Miami-Dade Police Department’s spokesman was willing to discuss Redlich’s flier or his videos with New Times. But legality aside, Blecher says safety is his biggest concern with the idea.
“We’ve all seen viral videos lately of police stops going horribly wrong,” he says. “I think the climate out there today is one of being particularly cautious.”
Redlich, though, says he wants his plan to spark more vigorous debate about DUI checkpoints in general.
“I want the Supreme Court to say that these checkpoints are illegal,” he says. “And I want people to become more educated about how the innocent can protect themselves during police encounters.”